Sunday night’s episode of “Girls” found Hannah (Lena Dunham) in a two-day tryst with a gorgeous doctor she’d just met (Patrick Wilson).
On Monday, various critics were skeptical of the episode, titled “One Man’s Trash.”
Entertainment Weekly presumed that the episode must have been a “fantasy” while Slate published an interview between two (male) journalists who had struggled to "suspend disbelief" about the supposedly mismatched romance, while acknowledging that when the gender roles are switched, such incongruities are much easier to swallow.
As Jezebel’s Tracie Egan Morrissey notes, Esquire went as far as “likening it to ‘The Cosby Show’ episode where all the men are pregnant and Cliff gives birth to a hoagie and bottle of orange soda.”
“Seriously, he compared a man giving birth to food as being in the same realm of ludicrousness as Joshua telling Hannah she is beautiful and wanting to spend the day with her," Morrissey wrote.
It seems some critics had to conjure up a dream sequence as an explanation for why someone that looks like Wilson would be attracted to Dunham's Hannah and (gasp!) find her “beautiful.”
Critics weren’t the only ones who found fault with the pairing. Several viewers also opposed the episode.
@KatieSueSayers tweeted, “In real life I don't think Lena Dunham would pull Patrick Wilson that easily!”
“In what world does Lena Dunham snatch guys who look like Patrick Wilson...,” said
@KhaleesiDon. @jantwinix wrote, “I'm supposed to believe Patrick Wilson and Lena Dunham? This making me mad.”
But what is so unusual about a director casting someone more 'conventionally' attractive to play their love interest? Woody Allen made a career of it.
And on the small screen, disparities in the presumed attractiveness of couples have been the norm as far back as “The Honeymooners,” a show that paired an overweight Jackie Gleason with the classically beautiful Audrey Meadows.
In more recent years, audiences have accepted such pairings as Kevin James and Leah Remini (“King of Queens”), James Belushi and Courtney Thorne-Smith (“According to Jim”), and George Lopez and Constance Marie (“The George Lopez Show”).
They’ve seen Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza date (and sometimes dump) a bevy of attractive partners. They’ve accepted that Tony Soprano would take up with his stunning mistress (Annabella Sciorra) and watched as “30 Rock’s” Jack Donaghy dated the likes of Salma Hayek, Jenifer Aniston, Elizabeth Banks, and Julianne Moore.
And on “Big Love,” the average-looking Bill Paxton has had not one but three beautiful wives (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin).
So why is it so shocking that on “Girls,” a character who does not lead with her looks might be involved with someone who does? It seems that Hannah's gender has a lot to do with it.
The episode’s title indicates that Dunham may have written it to provoke -- or expose -- discomfort among viewers and critics, bringing attention to a double-standard that has been the norm for decades.
Since “Girls” premiered last year, Dunham has been dismantling the notion that female characters have to be likeable and after Sunday’s episode, it’s clear that she’s also trying to prove that they can be matched with men that are considered “out of their league.”
As Brett Easton Ellis tweeted on Monday, “Lena Dunham's f--k you to anyone who thinks Hannah's not conventionally attractive enough to have sex with Patrick Wilson is awesome.”
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